Jared Kushner says Palestine peace talks are like a 'real-estate issue'
US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Sunday talked for the first time in public about the US government's plans to deliver its "ultimate deal" to facilitate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Speaking on stage at the Saban Forum in Washington DC, Kushner described Israel as a natural ally to Middle Eastern countries and claimed that both Palestinians and Israelis had learned to trust Donald Trump. "Both sides really trust the president, and that's very important," he said.
NB: The above video of Jared Kushner's discussion with Haim Saban begins at 53 minutes.
"A lot of countries in the Middle East want the same thing – economic progress, peace for their people. Many countries in the region see Israel as a much more likely ally than it was 20 years ago because of Iran, because of ISIS. A lot of people want to see it put together," Kushner said.
"The Saudis care a lot about the Palestinian people, they believe the Palestinian people need to have hope and opportunity, and this has been a big priority for the king and the crown prince – finding a solution to this problem," Kushner said, singling out Saudi Arabia, with which Israel has reportedly developed increasingly close ties.
The 'real estate issue'
Responding to a suggestion from Haim Saban, the Israeli-born businessman who funds the annual forum, that Kushner's team was treating the peace process as a "real estate issue", Kushner cited the senior role entrusted to Jason Greenblatt, Trump's former chief legal adviser, in the negotiating process.
"There's no better real estate lawyer than Jason Greenblatt who has been working on this, and there are a lot of real estate-related issues related to it, but it's also a function of being able to listen to all the different sides and understand them," Kushner said.
When praised for delaying the vote by Saban, Kushner thanked him but declined to speak further on the allegations, which were revealed by the website BuzzFeed.
Kushner also declined to comment on a forthcoming announcement by Trump this week that may see America declare its support for Jerusalem to become the capital of Israel, which the Palestinians oppose.
“He’s still looking at a lot of different facts, and then when he makes his decision, he’ll be the one to want to tell you, not me,” he said.
Commenting on how Trump plans to deliver the "ultimate deal" of solving the Israel-Palestine dispute, Kushner said: "Our goal is to go beyond signing a piece of paper into creating an environment that builds jobs and opportunities like never before."
In November, Middle East Eye revealed that Trump's plan includes the establishment of a Palestinian state whose borders would include the Gaza Strip, and that donor countries would provide $10bn to establish the state and its infrastructure, including an airport, a seaport in Gaza and new cities.
The diplomat who spoke about the plan to MEE said that the status of Jerusalem and discussion of the rights of refugees would be sidelined for a later date.
Kushner recently presented Trump's plan to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an attempt to secure his backing.
The senior White House adviser has also been tasked to lead a team of five people to help map out the plan to ensure its success.
He used his speech at the Saban Forum to also reaffirm the Trump administration's opposition to Iran, describing it as a major issue for many in the Middle East.
Kushner said that America had done a "really good job of beating" the Islamic State group and cited it as another regional issue that needed to be addressed, alongside the need to combat the "ideology of extremism in Islam".
Later on Sunday, the Arab League chief said a decision by Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital would boost fanaticism and violence, and not serve the peace process.
"It is unfortunate that some are insisting on carrying out this step without any regard to the dangers it carries to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world," Ahmed Abul Gheit, head of the Arab League, told reporters in Cairo.
Abul Gheit said the Arab League is closely following the issue and is in contact with the Palestinian authorities and Arab states to coordinate the Arab position if Trump takes the step.